It's no wonder self-avowed football fan Shahid Kahn, 61, the Pakistani-born owner of Urbana, Ill., automotive supplier Flex-N-Gate, agreed last week to buy the NFL's struggling Jacksonville Jaguars for $760 million: He has run this play before.
For much of the 1970s, Kahn worked for Flex-N-Gate -- a small company that began in 1956 building livestock racks for pickups and had expanded into bumpers. He left in 1978 and formed a rival company, Bumper Works, returning two years later with enough cash to buy his former employer.
Over the next several decades the charismatic, mustachioed engineer-turned-executive transformed tiny Flex-N-Gate into a privately held $3.5 billion global automotive supplier, with 12,450 employees in eight states and four countries and a customer list that reads like a Who's Who of automotive brands. It ranks No. 15 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 suppliers to North America with $2.6 billion in parts sales to automakers in 2010.
Going into the Monday, Dec. 5, game against San Diego, the Jags were one of the NFL's least competitive teams, with a 3-8 record and trailing the league in terms of points scored, yards per game, and passing yards. Its longtime coach, Jack Del Rio, was fired last week before the team's former owner announced the sale to Kahn.
Jacksonville last made the NFL playoffs in 2007. Jaguars fans are hoping Kahn is able to do for the team what he did for Flex-N-Gate.